PROVIDENCE – On January 17, 1973, after more than a decade of planning, the vision of a downtown entertainment arena became a reality with the opening of Providence Civic Center, replacing the old Rhode Island Auditorium on North Main Street. Since then, numerous musicians, comedians, wrestlers, circus performers and championship crews have all entertained Rhode Islanders young and old in the 13,000 seat arena.
But over the years the arena, now known as the Amica Mutual Pavilion, has become more than just a place where local fans can rejoice. State convention officials say “AMP” was, and still is, the centerpiece that revitalized downtown and expanded commerce in the city.
From now on, the arena in brown color with a touch of green will celebrate a golden anniversary this year. The RI Convention Center Authority has plans in place to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Amica Mutual Pavilion with multiple initiatives, including community service projects, bringing former performers back into the arena, and offering contests where residents can win tickets to upcoming events and more.
Lawrence J. Lepore, chief executive of the RICCA, told Providence Business News on Friday that when the arena opened in the winter of 1973, only one downtown hotel was in operation. At the time, the historic Providence Biltmore Hotel — now the Graduate Providence — was “everything closed and closed,” Lepore said.
Lepore said that over the years, the Amica Mutual Pavilion has been “the real anchor” for increasing economic activity in the city and helping give the downtown area a significant boost. He referred to several downtown hotels nearby, such as the Omni Providence Hotel and the Residence Inn Providence Downtown across the street, which have been under construction since then and local restaurants are thriving.
“People talk about how the city reinvented itself, and I think it did. But this building is what really did it,” Lepore said. “The initiative really started with [then mayor] Joe Doorley and this building, bringing people back downtown.
Lepore also said the arena became a focal point for college basketball’s Big East Conference formation in 1979. So the new arena — which has served as the Brothers’ home since 1973 — as an example, Lepore said.
“[Gavitt felt] that college basketball couldn’t survive on campuses in 1,900-seat arenas,” Lepore said. “That’s why there has been success in the Grand Est.”
Starting this month, RICCA officials will launch the first anniversary initiative called “AMP Gives 50”. Cheryl Cohen, RICCA’s senior director of sales, reservations and marketing, said convention staff members will perform 50 random acts of kindness throughout the year to support the surrounding community.
“They can be as simple as a clothing drive. We also held toy drives,” Cohen said. “We also talked about doing a campaign for local animal shelters.”
Cohen also said convention officials would “welcome” any support from the community, including local businesses, to help with the AMP Gives 50 initiative. She said the RICCA also hopes to work with Amica Mutual Insurance Co — which owns the naming rights to the arena and the RI Convention Center — as a partner on community service initiatives throughout the year.
Regarding the special performances, Cohen said Boston-based musical group New Edition, which has performed at AMP in the past, will return to the arena for a show on April 21. World Wrestling Entertainment, which has hosted arena wrestling events since November 1973, will have its “Monday Night Raw” show on March 13. Cohen said WWE and New Edition shows have “special celebrations” at these fan events. arena anniversary.
Cohen also confirmed Friday that the convention center authority will hold contests where people can win tickets to upcoming events at AMP, as well as merchandise. Among the new merchandise offered is a commemorative coin for the 50th anniversary of the Amica Mutual Pavilion where the zero in the “50” is shaped like the old Providence Civic Center logo.
Veronica Van Jura, RICCA’s senior marketing manager, also said that each month a new commemorative music playlist featuring acts performed at AMP over the years will be created and can be uploaded to a Spotify account. There will also be a large new installation in the arena lobby showing old posters advertising shows, tickets and t-shirts from acts that have performed at AMP, depicting the history of the arena,” Van Jura said.
Daniel P. McConaghy, executive director of the authority, also said there will be several opportunities over the coming year for the authority to engage and recognize long-time business partners who have supported the arena from the very beginning. He also hopes that businesses in the region can benefit greatly economically from the fact that AMP will also be 50 years old this year.
“We have a major influence on local businesses, and that’s far more important than what people appreciate,” McConaghy said. “It rolls deep.”
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